A necessary reform of agriculture market access rules

Pages:101-120
SUMMARY

Purpose The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate by text and empirical facts, the need to reform the rules in force. Design/methodology/approach This study confronts current standards with empirical facts. To do this, it is postulated that even though current market access standards are better that the Gatt 1947 rules, they leave the possibility for some members to hijack them to eventually... (see full summary)

 
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A necessary reform of agriculture
market access rules
Ismaelline Eba Nguema
Department of Public Law, Faculty of Law and Economics,
Omar Bongo University, Libreville, Gabon
Abstract
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to demonstrateby text and empirical facts, the need to reform the
rules in force.
Design/methodology/approach This study confronts current standards with empirical facts. To
do this, it is postulated that even though current market access standards are better that the Gatt 1947
rules, they leave the possibility for some members to hijack them to eventually increase their protection
effective tariff.
Findings Market access standards for agricultural products should be reformed because of their
asymmetry. To put an end to this asymmetry, these standards should be rebalanced. This is precisely the
challengeof the current multilateral negotiations.
Originality/value Unlike the studies conducted on this subject (to my knowledge), which are mainly
based on economicor political science methods, this analysisis essentially based on legal reasoning law.
Keywords Market access, AoA, Poorest members, Richest members
Paper type Research paper
1. Introduction
At the launch of the Uruguay Round, the contracting parties declared their willingness to
proceed with the insertionof underdevelopedparties in international trade[1]. To this end,
access to the market for agricultural products has been considered as one of the pillars of
fairtrade. The risein the price of food imports should (in principle) be offset byan increase
in their export earnings. However, several years after the end of the Uruguay Round,
participation in international trade in some regions has declined (especially in the least
developed regions like Africa).Conversely, many African countries became net importersof
food without increasingtheir export earnings [2]. The 2008 food crisis highlightedthe failure
of the poorest economies to access the world market. While the rich countries were able to
take advantage of the liberalization(started since 1980) of small economies, it seems that the
agricultural markets of the latter remained hermetic. This nding led many analysts to
question the progress World Trade Organization (WTO) members made in terms of market
access for agricultural products. Behind the principle, it seems that the exceptionis the
rule [3]. This is at least the deduction that can be made of criticisms that have been made
against the rules in force (Chinotti, 2004;Supper, 2000). However, the adoption of the draft
modalities on agriculture, the introduction of the special safeguard mechanism (SSM) for
developing countries or even the optimal application of the Bali decision on duty-free and
quota-free (DFQF) market accessfor least-developed countries could pave the way for more
equitable agriculturalliberalization.
Author like to thank the reviewers and Prof. Joseph McManon for allowing me to greatly improve
this paper.
Necessary
reform of the
agriculture
market
101
Received7 June 2019
Revised29 September 2019
15January 2020
9 May2020
Accepted1 June 2020
Journalof International Trade
Lawand Policy
Vol.19 No. 2, 2020
pp. 101-120
© Emerald Publishing Limited
1477-0024
DOI 10.1108/JITLP-06-2019-0030
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
https://www.emerald.com/insight/1477-0024.htm
Besides, some studiesconrm this reasoning.
In a detailed analysis of the agreement on agriculture (AoA), McMahon concluded that
existing standards for market access remain incomplete (McMahon, 2007). In fact, these
have not led to an effective reduction of tariff and non-tariff protection. Nevertheless, he
considers that in accordance with the AoA long-term goal, the Doha Round provides an
opportunity for members to rebalance existing standards and move further towards
agricultural tradeliberalization.
Focussing on the North-South imbalances induced by the AoA, Cardwell and Smith
show in their analysis that market access standards have beneted only a few members
(mainly developed countries) (Cardwell and Smith, 2013). On the other hand, they note that
the current negotiations could lead to a rebalancing of the standards in force. This would
improve the economic andsocial situation of developing members, especially the poorest.
In contrast to the studies mentioned above, this analysis focusses mainly on market
access for agricultural products. Nevertheless, while analyzing the standards in this area,
this study also analyses the interaction between market access and the other two pillars of
AoA, namely, domesticsupport and export subsidy. This study confronts current standards
with empirical facts.
To do this, it is postulated that even though current market access standards are better
than the GATT 1947 rules, they leave the possibility for some members to hijack them to
eventually increasetheir protection tariffs.
To support this hypothesis, we will begin by analyzing the draft modalities;
While it seems that this text contains the bases for a more equitable regulation, the
rst decisions adopted during the Doha Round seem to have mixed results. This is
particularly the case with the Bali decision on tariff quotas;
In addition to tariff quotas, a set of tariff measures is currently deployed;
Market access also depends on better regulation of non-tariff barriers;
Yet, it seems that the SSM may offer better market access conditions; and
Finally, it will become clear that, in addition to fairer agricultural rules, better
market access for the poorest countries also depends on their ability to improve
their trade performance.
2. Draft modalities: towards a better opening of agricultural markets?
The current market accessdraft appears to differ in some respects from the disciplines of the
AoA. In this draft, the members proposenot only to further reduce bound tariffs but also to
soften the effects of tariff escalation on agricultural imports. To do this, members have
chosen to use a tiered reduction formula(i.e. the reduction will be greater for members with
the highest bound rates).
Members shall reduce their consolidatedrates in six annual installments over a ve-year
period, as follows:
if the nal bound tariff or ad valorem equivalent is greater than zero and less than or
equal to 20%, the reduction shall be 50%;
if the nal bound tariff or ad valorem equivalent is greater than 20% and less than
or equal to 50%, the reduction shall be 57%;
if the nal bound tariff or ad valorem equivalent is greater than 50% and less than
or equal to 75%, the reduction shall be 64%; and
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